Komisaruk Family - first 8 generations

Komisaruk Family – first eight generations

Prepared by Chaim Freedman, Petah Tikvah, March 2007

1) Yosef (Josel) (Halevy) pre-surname, b. c.1695 in probably Lithuania,[1] d. before 1765 in probably Rassein, Lithuania.

Yosef (Josel) is the earliest known ancestor of the Komisaruk family in a direct male line of descent. His name was discovered in the 1765 census of the city Rassein (currently Raseiniai), Lithuania where it appears as the patronymic of his son Meir.At that time Jews did not bear surnames but Yosef was identifiable through the overlap of details on subsequent census lists until the family adopted the surname Komisaruk in the early nineteenth century. The first documented record of the surname is the 1816 Revision List (census) for the town Rassein, where Yosef's grandson's name appears as David Komisaruk.

Yosef was a Levite, a descendant of the ancient Biblical tribe of Levi, son of the Patriarch Yaakov (Jacob). This tribe was not assigned a specific district of residence in ancient Eretz Yisrael, but was dispersed throughout all the tribes as it was the duty of the Levites to carry out special religious and communal functions, in particular, to assist the Kohanim (Priests) in the rites of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.Knowledge of one's Levitical descent was passed down orally from father to son through the generations, was inscribed on tombstones, and written in official documents such as marriage certificates. The most frequent use was when a person was called up to the Torah reading in the synagogue. In the case of Yosef's son Meir, he would have been summoned to the Torah reading by the name " Meir ben Yosef Halevy". Thus the identity of Levitical families was well known in the community, despite about one hundred generations which separated them from their Biblical ancestors. Civil secular records in Polish, Russian or Ukrainian usually did not include reference to Levitical status.

DNA testing establishes that the Komisaruk family belongs to haplogroup R1a1 which is common to most Ashkenazi Levites.

The early eighteenth records of the ancestry of the Komisaruk family are written in Polish as Lithuania was then under Polish control until annexed by Russia in 1795. Thereafter records are in Russian,

The geographic origins of the ancestors of the Komisaruk family prior to Yosef has yet to be researched which is likely to be very difficult if not impossible due to the absence of surnames.

According to the memoirs of Norman Mendelson " I don't know how many years the family lived in Lithuania but it is presumed that we, after dispersal, finished up in Spain and, then, when the inquisition started, we travelled to Lithuania. From our branch in Lithuania we could boast a few famous rabbis - in my family we're noted for our rabbis". It remains to be seen whether there was an oral tradition of Spanish origins or whether this was a generalisation.

2) Meir (Major/ Mejer) (Halevy) pre-surname, b. c.1720 in probably Lithuania.[2]

Meir's name appears as the patronymic of his son "Dawid Meyerowicz" in the 1784 Census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in that section relating to the village Girtagola (currently Girkalnis), District of Rassein, Vilna Province. It was customary in Lithuania/Poland or Russia and those territories under its influence, to refer to people by their first name together with that of their father. Surnames were adopted in the Russian empire after legislation in 1804. Since Meir lived and probably died prior to that date, he bore no surname, yet he can be identified in documents by connection with his son David who apparently was the first member of the family to adopt the surname "Komisaruk".

Meir's date and place of death have yet to be established. He can be identified in the 1765 census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as "Major Joselowicz", the only person in the district of Rassein whose personal name coincided with the patronymic of his son David Meirowicz and indeed he had a son David who appears in the 1765 census, together with his wife Khana, which was also the name registered for David's wife in the 1784 census. At that time Meir was living in Rassein city. At some subsequent date his son David moved to the village of Girtagola, as recorded in the 1784 census.

According to the 1765 census Meir had children other than David, but their subsequent surnames, which apparently differed from that adopted by David, have yet to be established by comparison between the 1784 and 1816 censuses.

Biographical information has not been discovered yet in archival resources in Lithuania, but may be sought in the Lithuanian Historical Archive in Vilna (Vilnius). Oral family tradition claims descent of the Komisaruk family from a line of rabbis and communal leaders. Meir's family appears as the third family of 180 who are recorded in the entire Rassein district. Those families recorded at or near the begining of the list were usually influential in the community.

He married Beyla pre-surname.

Beyla: Identified by name as the wife of "Major Joselowicz" in the 1765 census. A great-grandaughter was named after her as seen in the 1816 census in Rassein city.

3) David Komisaruk,[3] b. c.1747 in Rassein, Lithuania.

His name was discovered from the patronymic used with his sons' names in various Rassein records, the earliest being the 1816 Revision List for Rassein city. There is no relevant "David father of Leib, Berel and Velvel" on the 1784 Rassein city census. But, although this list preceeds the adoption of surnames, it is possible to identify this exact family configuration in the 1784 census in Girtagola village. When David died has yet to be discovered; he does not appear in the 1816 list for either Rassein or Girtagola.

He married Khana ?.[4]

Khana: Her name appears in both the 1765 and 1784 censuses as the wife of David. Therefore Khana and David were married before 1765 but had no children at the time of the 1765 census. Their eldest son Leib Komisaruk was born in 1773, so it is reasonable to assume that there were earlier children who perhaps died or there were daughters who were married before 1784.

4) Dov Ber (Berel) Komisaruk, b. 1776 in Girtegola, Lithuania,[5] d. 1843 in Rassein, Lithuania.[6]

Oral tradition held that Berel came from a prominent family of scholars and communal leaders in Kovno. Lithuanian records prove that the family came from the city Rassein which was located in Kovno Gubernia (province).When the Jews were compelled to adopt a surname in 1804 Berel and his brothers or their father registered their surname as "Komisaruk". Later generations used various forms of this name: Komisaruk, Komesaroff, Komisar, Comisaroff, Comisarow. A full explanation of the reason for these variations and the historic basis for the family's activities in Rassein can be found in "Our Fathers' Harvest" (Chaim Freedman, Israel 1982, supplement 1990.)

Berel Komisaruk and his family appear to have held a license to farm taxes which the local Jewish community was obliged to pay to the Russian government. In their case the particular tax was that due to the supply corp of the army, the Komisariat. This was probably the origin of this surname.

Tradition claims some relationship with the famous Soloveitchik family of Kovno. Other than their common Levitic descent, this has not been established. The Soloveitchik family was amongst the founders of the Kovno community in the early 18th century.

The 1816 Revision List for Rassein city includes two family groups with heads of family Leib, son of David Komisaruk and Velvel, son of David Komisaruk. Under the family group of Leib, who was missing in 1816, appears his brother Berel, son of David Komisaruk. Since Berel's son Zalmen appears under his father's family group, and it is noted that he "came from over the border in 1812" this seems to indicate that the family moved around between Rassein, nearby Girtagola, as indicated by the 1784 census, and perhaps other places. Berel was not registered in his own right as a family head, probably due to his recent arrival in Rassein.

The Komisaruks appear in two different sections of the 1816 census. Velvel appears under the main category of "Meshchani" - burghers or city citizens, whereas Leib and Berel appear under the small category "Rukidelniki" which is a currently obsolete term indiacting "craftsmen". While tradition tells of the family's activities as tax farmers and rabbis, it appears that some of them engaged also in some type of craft.

Although there was some indication in oral traditions that Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk's father's name was "Zev or Velvel", all official records list his name as "Berel". His full Hebrew and Yiddish names were most probably "Dov Ber."

Rabbi Dov Ber and Ester Komisaruk were the common ancestors of three families: Komisaruk (Komesaroff), Zhmood and Grinblat, although the Grinblat family have yet to be identified in Lithuanian archival records.

Records where the name of Berel Komisaruk appears:

1784. Census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rassein district, Girtagola village: appears as the second son of "Dawid Mejorowicz".

1816. Revision List of the town of Rassein, Rassein district: Appears under the Head of Household, "Leib, David son Komisaruk", his elder brother.

1846. List of people who did not, or were not expected to pay their taxes. The reason given in Berel's case was that he "died in 1843". The recording of his name "Berel Davidovitch Komisaruk" in this list facillitated bridging between earlier documents bearing that name and later ones referring to his son Zalmen as "Zalmen Berelovitch".

1847/8.Lists of Rassein Jews who applied and were approved to become farmers in Novorussia (south-east Ukraine) where Berel appears as the patronymic of his son "Zalmen Berelovitch Komisaruk".

1848. List of tax payers in Rassein where Berel appears as the patronymic of his son "Zalmen Berelovitch Komisaruk".

The memoirs of Norman Menelson include information conveyed to him by his grandmother Beila Reeva Komesaroff: "We came from Lithuania. From our branch in Lithuania we could boast a few famous rabbis. Rabbi Ber was our noted man. He was such a great rabbi that people came from all over to hear his opinion and evaluation on questions".

Further evidence of the Komisaruk family's involvement in religious and scholastic life in the Rassein community can be found in the records of the allocation of funds collected from the Jews in the Box Tax: In an article written by Anatoly Chayesh (Jewish historian living in St.Petersburg) on the subject of the collection and application of the "Box Tax" in the Russian Tsarist Empire, ("Box Tax Paperwork Records as a Source of Information About the Life of Jewish Communities and Their Personal Structure" - translated from Russian and published in the Litvak Special Interest Group Online Journal) appear details of a number of community projects in Rassein which were allocated funds by the governmental tax authorities. The first of these was for a "praying school", that is a "Beit Midrash":

"On the 25th of August in the year 1850, item 12580, on the yard of the property of the Jew Komisaruk, called Khayei Adam"

From this information we can learn that the Komisaruk family operated a "Beit Midrash" (a place of learning and prayer) on it own property. This may explain why in the records of the 1848 Box Tax there are two entries for the payment by Berel Komisaruk's son Zalmen, one larger payment probably for his house and another smaller payment probably for the property of the Beit Midrash. The name given to the Beit Midrash "Khayei Adam" was the name of a book written by Rabbi Avraham Danzig, the father of Berel Komisaruk's brother-in-law Yitskhak Danzig of Vilna. The use of this name was very common in many European communities as it indicated that that book in particular was studied by the scholars in those Batei Midrash. Although the above grant from the Box Tax is dated from 1850, when Berel Komisaruk was already dead and when his son Zalmen had already moved to the Ukraine, the Beit Midrash may have been in operation for some years previously, and continued to be managed in 1850 by those Komisaruks who remained in Rassein, namely Zalmen's son Yankel, and his cousin Sender Komisaruk.

He married Ester Vilner, b. 1777 in Serhei, Lithuania,[7] (daughter of Yehudah Leib Vilner and Wife of Serhei) d. c.1860.

Ester: The personal names of the parents of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Komisaruk were not recorded clearly in family tradition. However, given the prevalence of the name Ester amongst her descendants, together with the fact that her mother was the daughter of Ester Jaffe, it seemed likely that this was the name of Shlomo Zalmen's mother.This was confirmed by the 1816 Revision List for Rassein city which recorded her name as "Estera, aged 39". Women were recorded in the 1816 list without their patronymic.

Ester's identity as the daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Leib of Serhei was established as follows. Oral tradition conveyed by several of the branches of the descendants of Berel Komisaruk claimed descent from the Gaon of Vilna. An independent source is the memoirs of Marcus Joseph Weinkle who was personally acquainted with Rabbi Pinkhas Komisaruk (lived 1830-1897). Weinkle records in his memoirs that Rabbi Pinkhas claimed descent from the Gaon: "Feigel married Wolf Komisaruk, a Rabbi's brother, descended, as it is said, from the great Jewish scholar, the Gaon of Vilna."

The exact nature of the link between the two families was established by an inscription in an old book passed down through the generations of the Komisaruk family. This was a copy of "Khokhmat Adam" dating from the early 19th century. Next to the name of the author, Rabbi Avraham Danzig, was a faded handwritten inscription in Hebrew "Av Dodi" meaning "the father of my uncle". Other family inscriptions establish that the book was brought from Lithuania by Ester's son, Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk, when he settled in the Ukraine in about 1847/8.

The father of one's uncle could either be one's grandfather, in which case he would have been referred to as such, or the father of one's aunt's husband. Since Avraham Danzig's son Yitskhak was married to Gittel, a daughter of Yehuda Leib of Serhei, the second son of the Gaon of Vilna, it can be established that this was the link between the family of the Gaon and the Komisaruk family. Given that the Danzigs were not Leviim and that the Komisaruks were, and following research of the other children of Avraham Danzig, Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk's mother Ester had to be a sister of Gittel Danzig, and thereby, a grand-daughter of the Gaon of Vilna.

Some material about the relationship was sought in the archive of Benyamin Rivlin (Jerusalem) which includes a file of material on the family of the Gaon of Vilna. This material includes copies of lists prepared by Rabbi Eliyahu Landau (a great-great grandson of the Gaon) who was the major source for that section pertaining to the Gaon in Eliezer Rivlin's genealogy "Sefer Hayakhas". The names and number of the daughters of Yehuda Leib of Serhei is ambiguous. Landau wrote several versions of his lists, which state that Yehuda Leib had four daughters and not two as recorded in "Sefer Hayakhas". One version indicated a son-in-law Velvel, which might have supported an early tradition in the Komisaruk family for that name. No one list included all the daughters of Yehudah Leib and at least six were identified in "Eliyahu's Branches."

Discovery in Ukrainian and Lithuanian archives of documentation firmly establishes the names of Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk's parents as Berel and Ester. The name Ester passed down tin the family to two of Ester Komisaruk's grand-daughters: Ester Luban, daughter of Rabbi Pinkhas Komisaruk, and Ester Pogorelsky, daughter of Pinkhas's brother Velvel Komisaruk, both of Grafskoy, Ekaterinoslav (Ukraine).

5) Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk,[8] b. 1798 in Girtegola, Lithuania,[9] d. 1853 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia.[10]

Like his ancestors, Shlomo-Zalmen was both a scholar and active in communal activities. The written sources refer to him as Rabbi, as related orally by his descendants as well as an inscription in the book "Khokhmat Adam" where his son refers to him as "My father, my teacher,our teacher the Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen of blessed and righteous memory". He was presumably named after his mother's uncle Rabbi Shlomo-Zalmen of Vilna, the Gaon's eldest son.

Shlomo Zalmen's movements during his early years are difficult to trace from the available records. He is recorded in the 1816 census of Rassein city as the then only child of Berel and Ester Komisaruk. A note is appended to his name "came from over the border in 1812". He probably spent his youth in his father's town Girtegola, then moved to Rassein in 1812 when he married Yokhved, a daughter of Rabbi Menakhem-Mendel of Girtegola and Rassein. Where he was immediately prior to 1812 that might qualify as being "over the border" remains to be seen. One can theorise that at the age of Barmitzvah (13) he was sent to learn with his scholarly maternal grandfather Rabbi Yehudah Leib in Serhei ( son of the Gaon of Vilna) which was in the Province of Suwalki. This practice was repeated in later generations where members of the Komisaruk family were sent to study in other towns.

In Rassein Shlomo Zalmen was apparently involved in the Polish revolt of 1831 since Rassein was one of the main garrisons of the Russian army. Shlomo-Zalmen was said to have held the official position of "Commissioner of Supply" to the army. He so excelled himself in the collection of supplies for the army that he was awarded a gold medal. Research in the Historical Archive of Lithuania in Vilna (Vilnius) are being carried out to trace some record of these activities.

Shlomo Zalmen appears in a list of property owners in Rassein in 1846 who housed Kheders. There were three entries for "Zelman Komiseruk" (sic) for three Melamdim whose Cheders he housed. This may mean that he owned three properties or that he had a large house which had the space to house three Cheders.

In 1847 Rabbi Shlomo-Zalmen joined a group of eleven families from Rassein which applied to take up the offer of Tsar Nicholas the First to settle on the land in the south-eastern Ukraine. The object of this offer was to develop the recently acquired region of Novorussiya (New Russia), as well as relieving the overcrowding of Jewish urban settlement. To entice the Jews to take up the offer, they were exempted from military service. This fascinating episode in Jewish history is covered in detail in "Our Fathers' Harvest" (Chaim Freedman). "Zalmen son of Berel Komisaruk" appears in a list of farmer applicants in 1847 and in another list from 1848 of those families approved to settle in Novorussia. Zalmen also appears in a list of tax payers in Rassein in 1848, so he must have settled his debts before leaving the city. In the list of Box tax payers Zalmem's name appears twice with different payments of tax. This probably indicates that he owned two taxable properties n which tax was stated as "house 1.16 rouble" and "0.15 rouble".

Initially Shlomo-Zalmen was the sole Rabbi ministering to 2,500 settlers on the first six Jewish agricultural colonies established in Yekaterinoslav Government. The Rassein settlers were allocated to the seventh colony Grafskoy which was established between 1847 and 1848. Since Shlomo-Zalmen died in 1853 he barely managed to establish his family in Grafskoy. His great-grandson Khaim-Velvel (William) Komesaroff of Melbourne claimed to recall Shlomo-Zalmen's tombstone in Grafskoy. The cause of death was probably one of the cholera or scurvy epidemics rampant at the time, which extracted a heavy toll from the vulnerable pioneer settlers.

The order of Shlomo-Zalmen's children by oral tradition was thought to be: Pinkhas, Leibl, Velvel and the fourth son whose name was not recalled. The 1858 Revision List in Grafskoy gives the order as: Leibl, Pinkhas and Velvel. The fourth son, Yaakov or Yankel was not recorded as he remained in Lithuania, as indicated by the 1858 Rassein Revision List. The 1847 and 1848 farmer lists give the order as in the Grafskoy list. The identity and position of Yankel as the second-born son is established by his age in the 1858 Rassein Revision List.

Despite his untimely death and the absence of written records of his scholarship, Rabbi Shlomo-Zalmen's heritage was proudly recalled by his descendants.

He married Yokhved Fridgut, b. 1798 in Rassein, Lithuania,[11] (daughter of Menakhem Mendel Fridgut) d. c.1880 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia.

Yokhved: Her father is recorded amongst the scholars of Rassein:

"In the days of the Gaon, our teacher Rabbi Dov-Ber (Rabinowitz), Av Din, there lived in our city the great Rabbi, the saint, the Kabbalist, our teacher the Rabbi Menakhem-Mendel of blessed memory of Rassein, who was Shokhet and examiner (of meat) of the Holy Community of Girtegola, region of Rassein. Twenty years before his death he left the labour of Shekhita and settled in our city to study in the Great Beit Hamidrash. He passed away in the year 5596 (1836) and his honoured resting place is in the old cemetery."

Rassein was a centre for mystic study because a noted Kabbalist, Rabbi Shmuel Hekhassid, conducted a study circle there until his death in 1826. So it is likely that Rabbi Menakhem-Mendel, who is referred to as a Kabbalist, studied with him for a period of ten years.

Yokhved is recalled by her family as having been instrumental in the decision to leave Lithuania when the opportunity arose to settle in the Ukraine. This was due to her concern that her sons be saved from the government agents who kidnapped Jewish boys and handed them over for military service.

There is a conflict between the above biography claiming Yokhved's father was Menakhem Mendel, and the 1858 Revision List from Grafskoy which shows her patronymic as "Leib". The configuration of personal names Mendel and Pinkhas in the Komisaruk family correlates with the Fridgut family of Rassein. This has yet to be documented.

The earliest documentation of Yokhved is the 1816 Revision List for Rassein city which gives her age as eighteen. The 1858 Grafskoy Revision list also confirms her year of birth as 1798, the same date of birth as her husband Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen Komisaruk. Yokhved probably died in the 1880's when several descendants were named after her.

6) Pinkhas Komisaruk, b. 1830/32 in Rassein, Lithuania,[12] d. 1897 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia.[13]

The fact that Pinkhas was born in Rassein was established by the discovery of a history of Rassein (see sources) where Pinkhas appears in the category of notables who were born in Rassein but lived elsewhere. This source also identifies his maternal grandfather and his father Shlomo Zalmen. Indeed had it not been for the discovery of this book, the family's connection with Rassein might never have been known and the family's earlier history never uncovered, as oral travdition told of the family's origin as Kovno (Kaunas). This referred to the province of Kovno in which the city Rassein was located.

A brief biography appears in the history of Rassein:

"The rabbi, the great luminary, our teacher the Rabbi PINKHAS KOMISAR from the city of Rassein, who was Av Din and Shokhet in Grafskoy, a Jewish colony in the Government of Yekaterinoslav, died in the year 5657, (1897) 27th Adar, aged 67. Son of our outstanding teacher Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen from the city of Rassein who died in the year 1848. Reb Shlomo Zalmen was the son-in-law of the great Rabbi, the Kabbalist, our teacher Rabbi Menakhem Mendel from Rassein who was Shokhet in the Holy Community Girtegola and afterwards left the labour of Shekhita and sat learning in our city in the Great Beit Midrash 20 years until his last day and died in 5596 (1836). His honourable resting place is in the old cemetery."

There are several errors in this information. Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen did not die in 1848 but in 1853 in Grafskoy. The error may have been made by the author of "Ir Rassein" who found no further reference to Shlomo Zalmen in Rassein after 1848, by which time he had emigrated from the city.

The identity of Rabbi Shlomo Zalmen's father-in-law Menakhem Mendel clashes with the patronymic applied to Zalmen's wife Yokhved in the 1858 Grafskoy Revision List.

Rabbi Pinkhas obtained his rabbinic learning initially in Lithuania and from his father. He was also trained as a Shokhet. Following the death of his father, the religious leadership of the colonies was thrust upon him at a young age. Despite the promised exemption from military services, when the Crimean War broke out in 1854 Rabbi Pinkhas, being the eldest son, was conscripted. He served in the supply corps and thereby was able to care for the dietary needs of the Jewish troops by obtaining live cattle for Shekhita. Even in the confusion of battle Rabbi Pinkhas sought out Jewish troops for prayer and dedicated himself to comfort the wounded and bury the dead.

Upon his release from the army Rabbi Pinkhas took up farming his share of the family allotment together with his brothers. Each held 40 desyatins.He toiled in the fields by day and studied and taught by night. Only when his sons were old enough to take over was he free to act as full time Rabbi.

Whilst following the Lithuanian system of interpretation of religious law, Rabbi Pinkhas always took into account the needs of his people, seeking to ease any economic burden on poor families.

During the pogroms of the 1880's Rabbi Pinkhas was renowned for his selfless dedication to helping the suffering. Whenever news arrived of a pogrom he rode off to tend the wounded and conduct funerals for the victims. During his army service he had learnt the rudiments of medical care and acted as a "Feldsher" (medical orderly) since qualified doctors rarely were available to tend the Jews. During one Yom Kippur he interrupted services in the synagogue in order to give medical aid to a sick woman.

Having lost his wife in childbirth he remarried twice since tradition required the Rabbi of a community to be married. Rabbi Pinkhas met an untimely death contracting pneumonia after falling into his well whilst trying to draw water to feed the animals. This was indicative of his concern for others since, although no longer involved in farming, he decided to save the family the trouble of rising early in the cold winter and took upon himself the task.

His funeral was long remembered by people who came from the colony regions. Thousands attended, including sixteen Rabbis from the district who had come to pay homage to this renowned scholar and devoted leader. Stories of Rabbi Pinkhas' activities were related by the following generations and this author remembers listening to his grandparents relate the tales of their beloved grandfather.

Rabbi Pinkhas' obituary appeared in the Hebrew newspaper Hamelitz:

"GRAFSKOY: (a Jewish colony in the Government of Yekaterinoslav). - the 27th day of Adar Rishon was for us a day of mourning and grief because on it departed to his eternal life in the sixty seventh year of his life, the great Rabbi, Av Din of this place, our Rabbi Pinkhas Komisarov who officiated to the glory of our colony in the position of rabbi and Shokhet and examiner more than thirty years. Great honour was shown him upon his death, all the Rabbis of the surrounding colonies gathered and came to pay him their respects and to eulogise him according to the law. He was great in Torah and Fear of Heaven, and in peace and honesty led his brethren the farmers. Peace be to his dust and may his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life. Kalman Bruser."

(The author of this obituary, Kalmen Bruser, was a son of David Moshe Bruser whose family also originated in Rassein and settled in Grafskoy.)

Whilst Rabbi Pinkhas left no written record of his scholarship, several books which belonged to him were saved from destruction during the revolution, and these bear his signature. A treasured memento of him is in daily use by this author: his Tefilin which were inherited by his grandson Shlomo Zalmen Komesaroff (Kaye) of Melbourne and in turn by this author.

Pinkhas's grandson Mordekhai (Mottel/Mark), a son of Rabbi Zalmen Komisaruk of Vasilkovka, mentions his grandfather in his memoirs:

"The first of our ancestors who I remember was my father's father, the grandfather Pinkhas, by him there were three other brothers, of whom I only knew the great-uncle Velvel. Other brothers, that means my great-uncles with the names Yaakov and Zalmen, I did not see. One of them was in Kovno, and the grandfather Pinkhas and the great-uncle Velvel lived in a Jewish colony in Yekaterinoslav Government, Mariupol district. The colony was called Grafskoye, or No. 7 (all 17 colonies which were situated in Yekaterinoslav Government had a number). The grandfather Pinkhas was a Shokhet and a Rabbi, and his sons, that means my uncles, father's brothers, worked the earth like peasants and the great-uncle Velvel with his sons Berel and Meir also initially worked the land, only later did Berel opened a small store, and Meir was living by the work of the land.

When I was 6 years old I remember that they brought to grandfather Pinkhas a painted tree with branches, the tree began with the great-grandfather who was called Mendel. From there it went to his sons Pinkhas, Velvel, Yaakov and Zalmen. Only in my memory remains only the grandfather Pinkhas with his four sons Shlomo Zalmen (this was my father) with his brothers Mendel, Simkha and Meir. What I am writing about is only the roots which came out from the grandfather Pinkhas with his brother Velvel. (On the tree were only male people)."

There are several errors, namely that Pinkhas's father was not Mendel, but Zalmen and Pinkhas had another brother who lived in Grafskoy, Leibl.

" We came to colony Grafskoy, there did the grandfather Pinkhas live, the grandfather Pinkhas I remember that he always used to go around with a black scarf tied to his cheek, I don't know the reason. He was an angry Jew. The parents went away to the village Vasilkovka, Pavlograd district, and I remained living in the colony learning from the Gemorah melamed. I used to “eat kest” by uncle Simkha, and the brother by the uncle Mendel. The grandfather Pinkhas used every Shabbat to hear us, and never was he satisfied. He used to say it was a waste of the fees paid for our lessons. Later I wanted to travel home and I remember that uncle Mendel harnessed his horse and a droshky and on Sukkot we came home"

Mottel's impressions of his grandfather Pinkhas are in sharp contrast to others of his cousins, particularly Mendel's son Zalmen and Meir's daughter Khana-Reizel (later married and lived in Melbourne, Australia. They spoke of their grandfather Pinkhas with great affection. Mottel's attitude was perhaps a forerunner of his later revolt against traditional Shtetl education to the exclusion of any secular study. Indeed he was representative of many of his generation who yearned to be part of the open secular Russian society, restricted as it was in many ways to Jews.

Rokhel Luban (daughter of Avrom Hillel and Dina Namakshtansky) wrote about her maternal grandfather in her memoirs:

"Grandfather Rabbi Pinkhas didn't live very long. It was a cold winter. Grandfather did not want to wake the children so they could give food and water to the horses and cows. He got up and dressed warmly. In the barn he gave them all food. But they wanted to drink. He took the bucket with a rope out to the well to draw water. It was very slippery; it was a heavy frost and in the evening when they had drawn water from the well, some spilt out. As it was a very cold night, it froze and became very slippery. It was impossible to stand properly as Grandfather lowered the bucket and filled it with water. When he pulled up the bucket, it pulled him over into the well.

He began shouting for help. They couldn't find a rope. Everyone was so confused that they couldn't think clearly. In the same house with Grandfather lived Grandfather's brother (# Velvel) and he had a shop for farmers' supplies. But there was no rope. Grandfather called from the well:" You stand in the middle of the ocean and you ask for a drop of water."
When they pulled him out of the well they quickly brought a doctor. But he was too chilled and they could not save him. Seventeen rabbis from the surroundings came to the funeral. All the children from the places where they lived, together with many householders, came to pay their respects for the father.

For my mother it was the worst. When she was born and lost her mother, Grandfather used to sit all night with the Gemorrah in his hand (# studying), swinging the cradle. My mother knew how to `Pasken' all the `Sheylahs' (# make decisions of religious law)."

He married (1) Khaya-Sarah Levin, b. 1834 in Salant, Lithuania,[14] (daughter of Meir (Markus) Levin and Rakhel ?) d. 1873 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia.[15]

Khaya-Sarah: Khaya Sarah's patronymic recorded in the 1858 Grafskoy Revision List, was Meir. Meir must have died by 1858 since in that year a grandson was born and named after him, Meir son of Pinkhas.

There were relatives of the Levin family living in the same district as the Komisaruks. In the memoirs of Mottel (Mark), son of Rabbi Zalmen Komisaruk of Vasilkovka, he mentions that he presented himself to the military conscription office in 1887 accompanied by his first Zalmen Komisaruk (son of Menakhem Mendel) and a son of Meir Levin. Records of donations to Eretz Yisrael (published as "Shemesh Tsedakah") record one Simkhah son of Tsvi Hersh Levin of Mariupol on several occasions in the 1890's and early twentieth century. One of Pinkhas Komisaruk's sons was also named Simkha, which may further indicate a relationship between the two families. Furthermore Rokhel Luban stated that her grandmother was "Khaya Levin from Mariupol".

The 1858 Revision List from Nechaevka records Levins who came from Salant, Lithuania in 1846.
The tax records from Salant Lithuania record these Levins who settled in the Ekaterinoslav colonies in 1846.

It would seem that Marcus, son of Simkha Levin who left Salant in 1846 and settled in the Yekaterinoslav colonies, was Meir the father of Khaya-Sarah Levin/Komisaruk.

Khaya-Sarah Komisaruk died in childbirth when her daughter Dinah was born.

Oral family history records very little about Khaya-Sarah except for mention of her in the memoirs of her granddaughter Rokhel Namakshtansky (Berchansky/Luban). After the Russian Revolution disease was rampant and Rokhel fell ill with typhus. She had a dream:

"I see in the corner by my sister's bed standing my grandmother Khaya, Mama's mother whom she never knew since she died when she had my mother. She stands dressed in her white clothes (shroud), alone, a little one. She says ` You my child must live. You are a mother with a little child' And she took and tied the cord and said `You musr carry on. I want you to stay on this earth'. I trembled and threw off the blanket. I made an undertakimg that even if in the morning my temperature was forty two I would not die. And so it was; it was the crisis of my life."

The comment "a little one" may be an indication of the hereditary trait among many of Khaya-Sarah's descendants who were short in height, particularly her daughter Dina, Rokhel's mother. Her memory was perpetuated by the naming of the first child of most of her children "Khaya" or "Khaim".

He married (2) Second-Wife ?, divorced.

Second-Wife: Was married to Rabbi Pinkhas after the loss of his first wife in childbirth. This was arranged since tradition obliged a Rabbi to be married. The second wife resented the step-children and was caught trying to poison her husband. They were divorced and her name is not recalled.

He married (3) Bassie ?.

Bassie: A widow with a son from a previous marriage. Devoted to her husband and willingly took upon herself the upbringing of his six orphans together with their one child in common. Using a Halakhic ruse to avoid his eldest son being conscripted in place of Bassie's retarded son, Pinkhas invoked a 'Tnai Get', a provisional divorce, should this happen. However this backfired, and he had to honour the divorce. The couple lived separately, but Bassie still cared for the children.

7 -1) Meir Komesaroff, (son of Pinkhas Komisaruk and Khaya-Sarah Levin) b. 1858 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia,[16] d. 1907 in Andreyevka, Tav. Ukraine.[17]

Left Grafskoy due to insufficient land for four brothers and settled in his wife's village Andreyevka. Made a living as a butcher together with his wife's brothers (his cousins) of the Zhmood family. Travelled around the villages buying and selling cattle and meat. Very religious yet tolerant of Christian neighbours, even befriended priests. Died of grief shortly after his beloved wife's untimely death. Recalled as a gentle and kindly man.

He married Tybel Zhmood, b. c.1866 in Andreyevka, Tav. Ukraine,48 (daughter of Koppel Zhmuydya (Zhmood) and Deverah Yovel) d. 1907 in Andreyevka, Tav. Ukraine.[18]

Tybel: Died of complications of childbirth ten days after giving birth to her daughter Khayalah. Recalled as a pious and loving mother to her large family who were left orphaned.

8) Khana-Reizel (Anna Roza) Komesaroff, b. 1887 in Andreyevka, Tav. Ukraine, d. 26 May 1955 in Melbourne, Vic. Australia, buried in Fawkner Cemetery, Melbourne, Australia.

Secular education Gymnasium Mariupol and Berdyansk (taught by B.Mosensohn, Zionist leader). Adored by her family and highly respected by all who came into contact with her, she was the eternal peacemaker, keeping the family together. The epitome of the Jewish homemaker, she kept open house for her family and friends. Exhibited a personal wisdom and love of Jewish tradition. Always available to give advice and help the needy. After Khana Reizel's untimely death,her family held fond memories of a kind and gentle lady.

She married Shlomo-Zalmen (Komesaroff) Kaye, in 1907 in Grafskoy, Yek.Russia, b. 25 January 1886 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia, (son of Menakhem Mendel Komisaruk and Beila-Reeva Pogorelske) d. 8 April 1958 in Melbourne, Vic. Australia, buried in Fawkner Cemetery, Melbourne, Australia. See below

7 -2) Menakhem Mendel Komisaruk,[19] (son of Pinkhas Komisaruk and Khaya-Sarah Levin) b. 1864 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia,[20] d. 1919 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia.[21]

Farmed a half share (20 desyatins) of his father's land in Grafskoy. Worked very hard by day and then spent long hours at night studying. Skilled with his hands, he built his own house next to that of his father. Was adept at houskeeping. Limped due to an accident. A strict father who carried out his religious duties with dedication and expected the same of his children. Proud to own part of Russian soil, a rare achievement for a Jew.Died of throat cancer; his grave was marked by a simple fence post due to wartime hardship.

He married Beila-Reeva Pogorelske, b. 1865 in Kobilnye, Yek. Russia,[22] (daughter of Zev Pogorelske and Khaya Sarah Gordon) d. 1935 in Melbourne, Vic. Australia.

Beila-Reeva: Brought up on the Jewish colony Kobilnye (Sladkovodnaya) where her father was a butcher. Orphaned from her father at age eleven, her mother moved to the small town Tsarakonstantinovka. A very pious woman, dedicated to her family. Endured the hardships of the Civil War and the loss of her husband until the family escaped from Russia in 1922. Settled in Melbourne. Recalled by her grandchildren as being always occupied with needlework or studying the religious books used especially by women.

8) Shlomo-Zalmen (Komesaroff) Kaye, b. 25 January 1886 in Grafskoy, Yek. Russia, d. 8 April 1958 in Melbourne, Vic. Australia, buried in Fawkner Cemetery, Melbourne, Australia.

Received a traditional education in Cheder, as well as benefiting from the spiritual influence of his grandfather Rabbi Pinkhas Komisaruk, the Rabbi of Grafskoy. Excelled at his studies and so was sent at age ten to his uncle Rabbi Zalmen Komisaruk, the Rabbi of Vasilkovka where he intensified his studies for a year.

Due to overcrowding in his parent's home, Zalmen was sent in 1897 to live with his aunt Ester Luban who had lost all but one of her children. There he experienced the Chassidic practices of his uncle Rabbi Khaim Moshe Luban, in contrast to the Lithuanian influence of his home. Zalmen was very attached to the family, particular his cousin Alter with whom he grew up. He lived with the Lubans in Mikhailovka and Melitopol until his marriage in 1907. He worked for a prominent Jewish retailer, Rosenshein in Melitopol. In 1905 Zalmen was sent by the firm to Harbin, Manchuria to investigate misappropriation by army officers of supplies sent by the firm to support the troops during the Russo-Japanese War. He was present in Melitopol when the firm was attacked by revolutionists in the 1905 Revolution.

After his marriage to his beloved cousin Khana Reizel, Zalmen established a wholesale leather business in Berdyansk with a partner Avraham Lamdansky. He was obliged, together with his wife, to care for her orphaned siblings after the early death of her parents. Due to the threat of imminent conscription into the Russian army, an experience which exposed Jews to violent anti Semitism, Zalmen and his family emigrated to Australia in 1913.

After the initial difficulties of a new immigrant in a strange land, Zalmen established a chain of retail drapery shops in a number of country towns as well as in Melbourne. Operated the Klinker Knitting Mills in partnership with the Ellinson family, then opened a retail drapery business 'The Major Distributors'.

Zalmen was active in the Jewish community: supporter and Life Governor of Mount Scopus College, involved in Zionist organisations, synagogues. He preserved the orthodox traditions of his forebears and regularly attended Carlton Synagogue, East Melbourne Synagogue of which he was Vice-President, and then the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. He encouraged his children and grandchildren to accompany him to synagogue. Jewish festivals and family occasions were often celebrated by large gatherings of the family at Zalmen and Khana Reizel's home.

Zalmen and Khana Reizel were highly respected in the Jewish community. Their home was open for many communal functions and hosted overseas emissaries. They were considered by their siblings as heads of their family since they were each the eldest. Zalmen assisted his brother Yaakov Leib Mendelson in the difficult struggle to bring their mother and siblings out of Russia after the Revolution.

Zalmen's devotion to his wife was so profound that after her untimely death he could not reconcile himself to his loss, a common phenomenon in the Komesaroff family. He went to live with his daughter Tessie, but soon suffered a stroke and was ill for two years until his sad demise.

When Zalmen Komesaroff's son Myer anglicised his surname after qualifying as a doctor,Zalmen did not wish for the family to have different surnames, so he and his sons Peter and William also changed their names to Kaye.

Date of death on tombstone is 19th Nisan. It should be 18th Nisan.

He married Khana-Reizel (Anna Roza) Komesaroff, see above
[1] Birthdate extrapolated from succeeding generations. 1765 Census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Province of Vilna, City of Rassein.
[2] Rassein District Census 1784: Girtegola list, Dawid Meirowicz, father of three sons Leiba, Berel and Welwel. 1765 census, Rassein City: "Major Joselowicz".
[3] Rassein District Census 1784: Girtegola list, Dawid Meirowicz, father of three sons Leiba, Berel and Welwel.
[4] Rassein District Census 1784: Girtegola list, Dawid Meirowicz, father of three sons Leiba, Berel and Welwel. Wife Channa.
[5] Census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1784, Rassein district, Girtegola village list: "Dawid Meirowicz, wife Khana, sons Leib, Berel and Velvel".
[6] Rassein town list of non-tax payers in 1846 states Berel Komisaruk died in 1843.
[7] Birthdate estimated on the basis of her children's and siblings' estimated birthdates.
[8] Rassein City Box Tax 1848 - appears on this list despite the fact that the family migrated to the colonies in 1846. Maybe he left property in Rassein, with his son Yankel, who paid it in 1848.
[9] Freedman, Menakhem Mendel (Neville) of Melbourne - family trees drawn up by him according to his grandmother Khana Reizel Komesaroff. Birthdate according to 1858 census,.
[10] Markovitch, Moshe. "Lekorot Hair Rassein Urabbaneha". Warsaw 1913.pp11,29 gives death date as 1848. This conflicts with the 1858 census in Grafkoy which records his date of death as 1853.
[11] Markovitch, Moshe. "Lekorot Hair Rassein Urabbaneha". Warsaw 1913. pp.11.29 Birthdate according to 1816 & 1858 census. The 1858 census records her father as Leib.
[12] Markovitch, Moshe. "Lekorot Hair Rassein Urabbaneha". Warsaw 1913.p.29,b.1830 According to the 1858 census in Grafskoy, he was born in 1832.According to his obituary in Hamelitz he was born in 1830. 1848 farmer list - age 18.
[13] "Hamelitz" - Hebrew newspaper - 1897, issue of 20th Adar Sheni; actual date of death: 26th Adar Rishon. William Komesaroff (Melbourne) recalls the tombstone in a place of honour in the front row of the Grafskoy cemetery.
[14] Zeligman, Yisrael."Megilat Yukhsin".Latvia c.1939 Birthdate according to 1858 census in Grafskoy.
[15] List of Yahrtseits - compiled by Rokhel Luban and held by her daughter Clara Berchansky, Petah Tikvah, Israel.
[16] No photograph exits of Meir and Tybel Komesaroff since Meir objected to being photographed for religious reasons. Birthdate and sibling order according to 1858 census in Grafskoy.
[17] Freedman, Tessie. Melbourne, Australia. as conveyed by her parents.
[18] Kogan, Khaya-Sarah - extensive correspondence with Chaim Freedman.
[19] Photograph of wooden gravemarker (proper tombstone unobtainable during the Civil War) given by Khaim-Velvel (William) Komesaroff of Melbourne to the author together with other such photos sent from Grafskoy to Australia.
[20] Freedman, Tessie - Melbourne, Australia - conveyed her parents' recollections of her grandfather. as did Khaim-Velvel (William) Komesaroff who, being the youngest son, was very attached to his parents.
[21] Photograph - held by author - taken with family group next to the section of the colony's tree plantation owned by Menakhem Mendel. The photograph was taken on the day his son Shlomo Zalmen left for Australia in 1913.
[22] Komesaroff, Khaim Velvel (William) of Melbourne, Australia Recollections of his early life in Russia, conveyed verbally to the author.

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